When Pat Young, Santa Monica College football coach, was asked last week if he had any key players returning from last year or any bright new faces, he replied that he likes to think of his players not as individuals but as a team.
In last Saturday's opener against local rival West Los Angeles College, the Corsairs played well as a unit and got some great individual performances, particularly from sophomore wide receiver Dathan Kearns, but WLAC countered with better team play and a come-from-behind upset win, 22-21.
It was only the second time that SMC, long a power in community college football, had played WLAC, which has been fielding football teams only since 1970. Last year the Corsairs got out to a 19-0 lead in the inaugural game, but the Oilers came back with two second-half touchdowns to make the final score a respectable 26-14.
Last week's victory was a big one for the Oilers and Coach Jim Babcock. It should give a lift to a program that has been struggling because of budget cuts and the graduation last June of the passing combination of quarterback Herman Evans and wide receiver Stephen Baker. Evans and Baker carried WLAC to a 6-4 record, the team's best performance in the last few years, and to a 4-2 mark and second-place tie (with Harbor) in the Southern California Conference.
If the upset was good for WLAC, however, it could be the last time the Oilers get a chance at the Corsairs for a while. WLAC moves to a different conference next year, a large league that may give members only one date with a non-conference opponent, and WLAC officials have been quoted as saying they may schedule that game with a less formidable opponent than SMC.
It would be a shame if the burgeoning Oilers-Corsairs series comes to a halt. That could deprive fans of thrillers like last week's game.
Kearns, a 5-9 sophomore from Dorsey High School who showed an uncanny ability to get open in the Oilers' secondary, was the star of the game as he made nine catches for 226 yards and one touchdown. His second-quarter touchdown catch was one for the books, a 59-yarder that a WLAC defender almost broke up when he got a hand on the ball near the Oilers' 20-yard line. But the ball bounced in the air, and Kearns caught it on the ricochet and scored.
Despite the heroics of Kearns, WLAC led at halftime, 10-7, scoring on a first-quarter 26-yard field goal by Pablo Ramirez, a freshman from Hamilton High, and a second-quarter, eight-yard run by sophomore Darrell Meadoh, the team's top running back last year. But SMC came back to lead, 21-10, in the second half.
Meadoh, a 5-7, 160-pounder from El Camino Real High, may have to be most of the Oilers' offense this season since passer Evans and premier pass catcher Baker have graduated. Meadoh had to carry most of the offensive load against SMC, running at a defense that had a pretty good idea that WLAC was going to give him the ball most of the time. The small but powerful runner wound up with 172 yards on 34 carries and three touchdowns, two in the second half to gave the Oilers the win.
Kearns and Meadoh made great contributions on offense and so did SMC quarterback Floyd Brewer, a freshman from Westchester High who completed 19 of 36 pass attempts for 333 yards and three touchdowns.
But in the end, it was the Oilers' defense that won the game, picking off four of Brewer's passes. WLAC sophomores Ron Beeks, defensive back, and William Jefferson, a defensive tackle, each had an interception, and Charles Gage, a freshman defensive back from Manual Arts, had two, including one he returned 25 yards in the fourth quarter to set up Meadoh's winning touchdown run.
The game was quite a show. Too bad if the curtain has to come down on the series.
The California Special Olympics, headquartered in Santa Monica, has begun a drive to register more mentally handicapped youths 8 and older for its programs in swimming, track and field, skiing and gymnastics.
Fran Spears, Special Olympics executive director, said the goal "is to register 5,000 new athletes statewide in addition to the more than 30,000 special olympians who participate in the ongoing program. We want to help them develop their physical, social and psychological skills through sports participation."
The new, 24-hour, toll-free number for registration is 1-800-TEAM-CSO. State offices are at 1424 4th St., Suite 700, Santa Monica 90401.
The Hollywood YMCA has established a free off-road bicycling and hiking program in the Santa Monica Mountains for inner-city youths ages 12 through 17 and their families.
Called Adventure Trails, the program began in July and has held outings for 450 participants, who are referred to the Y by the Department of Social Services, Child Protective Services, Childrens Hospital and the Los Angeles Free Clinic.
The program is co-sponsored by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Olympic Torch Relay Fund. Program director at the Y is Kevin Fox at 467-4161.